I’ve said earlier that I love living alone, and that’s still true. Despite being happy living in my own dwelling with nothing but sometimes barfy dogs to keep me company, after several months of single apartment life I’ve discovered a few things.
My relationship with cleaning has changed. Previously, I’ve been the kind of person who has a pretty high standard of living in fifth. Days and days would go by with the same dishes in the sink, and I’d pass by them like “meh”. Laundry? Eh, you can wear jeans multiple days in a row so that’s fine. I legitimately didn’t mop a floor until I turned 30, and that is not an elaboration. All of that would build up around me until one day I looked around my house in horror and would turn to Tim with wild eyes and say, “WE LOOK LIKE WE ARE LIVING IN AN EPISODE OF HOARDERS LET’S CLEAN LIKE WE’VE NEVER CLEANED BEFORE!”
And then after another period of procrastination, the two of us would clean the house until it represented a respectable dwelling again.
Now that’s it’s just me, I oddly take more pride in my apartment. I’m not sure if this is a sign of my widowhood or just maturity finally catching up with me, but I’ll take it. Just because I’m better about cleaning doesn’t mean I’m ready for Southern Living to feature my place. I find myself skipping less desirable tasks because there’s no one else around to complain about them. While I’ll keep the floors pretty tidy, clutter abounds over the kitchen island. Dining table? That’s the “I should really take this to GoodWill sometime this year” storage center.
I clean the bathroom regularly, but am learning things about myself that I wished I wouldn’t. Any woman who’s lived with a man, whether it be roommate or significant other, has cleaned the toilet at least once in her life and thought, “Men are disgusting!”
Do you know what happens when you live by yourself and clean the toilet? You realize that yes, your beautiful feminine hynnie is also disgusting. Nobody shits flowers folks – not even single white females. Scrub a dub dub, it’s a tough world out there.
My dining room table isn’t the only piece of furniture that serves double duty in my apartment. The coffee table doubles as a sort of open face wardrobe. Sure, I could put my clothes in drawers or hang them in the closet orrrrr I can lay them out in neat stacks like an outfit buffet. Bonus points for giving me a cushy place to rest my feet while watching television.
Also there’s basically never a reason to wear pants after 7pm.
Of course, living alone does lend itself to loneliness. Despite not hating my new life in these walls, there are certainly lots of little things I miss.
I miss having Tim slowly walk up behind me while I wash the dishes and sing to myself. No matter what the song or how badly I was performing with a dish rag and cleaner, he would always say with a soft smile, “I like it when you sing.”
At night I’ve never been a cuddler, and feel claustrophobic if someone is too close to me while I’m trying to sleep… as if they’re going to steal all the oxygen out of the room. So I sleep the same as I did when I was married to him, curled up in a cocoon of covers clutching a pillow. What I miss is waking up in the morning, and reaching out to my left before I even opened my eyes. Feeling his broad shoulder rise and fall with his even snores and the closely cropped, soft hairs on the back of his head. I miss that.
When I have a free evening at home, I spend a lot of time sitting on my back porch. My dogs will sniff through the dark, damp grass or lay down near my feet to chew a bone. Occasionally you can hear the coyotes in the fields behind my apartment, excitedly yip as they chase down and eventually kill the rabbits that surround the complex. When that happens, Eliot will stick his cropped tail straight up in the air and prance around the perimeter. He’ll lift his nose up to the dark sky and howl at the coyotes in the distance.
In the mix of quiet and barking and cars driving past, I do a lot of writing in the dark. It’s the kind of me time that I had a lot of before I met Tim, listening and writing and thinking. I liked that part of myself back then, and I like it still now.
During those moments on my back porch, being alone almost feels like a choice. Alone because I’m doing something important instead of simply having been robbed of my life.